March 2010

Mississippi Shipyard Workers Maintain Amphibious Transport Dock Ships
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Two years ago, members of Pascagoula, Miss., Local 733 celebrated the christening of the USS New York, a 684-foot long, 100-foot wide, vessel built to support amphibious assaults by the Marines.

Two hundred electricians who had worked on the ship at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems' shipyard in Avondale, La., took particular pride in the vessel containing a bow forged out of twisted steel from the World Trade Center destroyed on 9/11. (See "Steel Salvaged from World Trade Center Builds USS New York," April 2008.)

Now, the craftsmanship and diligence of the metal trades and Local 733 members at Northrop Grumman's mammoth Pascagoula facility has been rewarded by the U.S. Navy with a $41.3 million contract for ongoing maintenance on the USS New York and several other amphibious transport docking ships.

"By the time these ships hit the water, they are obsolete," says Local 733 Business Manager Jim Couch of the transport docks in the LPD-17 San Antonio class. As the Navy designs upgrades to offensive weaponry and defensive radar and communications, up to 300 electricians and electronics technicians will perform "short term, but high intensity" work, says Couch.

Despite a depressed national economy, Local 733 has picked up more than 500 new electricians since last July, many of them travelers from inside construction jurisdictions where unemployment is high.

Topped by unique cone-shaped masts containing state-of-the-art electronics for radar and communications, transport docks travel in excess of 22 knots (24.2 mph), accommodating up to 800 troops and 360 sailors. The ships are armed with guided missile weapons systems, up to four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, or five MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and 14 expeditionary fighting vehicles.

"Our union is honored by the U.S. Navy's decision to assign the ongoing maintenance of these impressive ships to members of Local 733," says International President Edwin D. Hill. "Our members' commitment to national security and the safety of our armed forces has been proven time and again."

The USS New York, an amphibious transport docking ship, will be maintained by members at the company's massive Mississippi yard.